“BoJack Horseman” has been a critical favorite for so long it’s hard to imagine people still are discovering it. But that’s just what happened Wednesday night, as the Netflix animated comedy pulled off an unprecedented move by premiering in syndication on Comedy Central.
Creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg spoke to IndieWire in the lead-up to Season 5, but while he was getting ready for the latest season’s launch, he was also in the process of going back through Season 1 to ready episodes for their debut on cable.
The Hollywood satire, featuring Will Arnett as the voice of a one-time sitcom star who is now drifting through his acting career on a cloud of alcohol, drugs, and self-loathing, has no shortage of adult content. That makes it a natural fit for Netflix’s lack of standards and practices, but not a dealbreaker for Comedy Central.
“We’ve been going back and editing the first season right now for time, not for content — just to fit in the content of commercial breaks,” Bob-Waksberg said. “You know we’ll see what happens when we get to Season 5 with all the dildos. But so far they’ve offered zero content restrictions.”
Given that “BoJack” is airing after “South Park,” which has always pushed the boundaries of what can and can’t be done on cable TV, airing an uncensored cut isn’t too surprising. “If we need to blur certain words or bleep certain words as we air it at different times of the day, we will, but they have not asked us to change anything as far as content goes,” Bob-Waksberg said. “That’s been really exciting.”
“But I’m really excited to see if the show finds a new audience and what people think of the show on that network,” he said. “To quote the great J.D Salinger, ‘Let’s find out!'”
When it came to adding commercial breaks, Bob-Waksberg said the process has been fun. “I mean, it’s a different way of thinking about the episode,” he said. “It’s been really interesting going back and watching and thinking about how this show has evolved since Season 1, and looking at the first season episodes and going like, ‘Oh, there’s some stuff we haven’t figured out yet. It’s fun to tighten them a little bit, too… Yeah, we can take a little air out of this scene or this doesn’t have to quite go on for so long. We can fiddle with this.'”
“It’s interesting to think about how the show does with commercial breaks, and what that does to the rhythms of the episode. You know? To me it’s kind of surprising. If a scene ends and it all of a sudden goes to black, it gets a laugh out of me. I don’t know if the audience watching on Comedy Central will have the same reaction, but I think there are some surprising act breaks. You go, ‘Oh, that doesn’t seem like an act break,’ so there’s something a little delightful in that, of like, ‘Oh, I guess that’s it and now we’re back again.'”
A big part of the process depended on picking up on each episode’s rhythm. “We actually do write with three-act structure in every episode, since the beginning, even though it doesn’t have traditional commercial breaks,” he said. “Even the episode of BoJack’s one long monologue [in Season 5] was written in three distinct acts. So you don’t necessarily know it while you’re watching the episode but we do think about those rhythms and we do think about, ‘OK, about a third to a halfway through the episode we want some sort of big hinge to happen. Then another quarter of the way through the episode we want another big hinge to happen.’ So sometimes in the actual making of those moments shift around.”
“It doesn’t necessarily happen in the best places for act breaks as we’re re-editing them now, but it certainly gives us a good foundation,” he said. “That was a very technical answer, but that’s where I’m at right now.”
“BoJack” has yet to be renewed for a sixth season, but Bob-Waksberg has a number of other projects in the works at the moment and is still excited about continuing to tell BoJack’s story. “I think creatively there are things that I’m still discovering about the show and the world and the characters,” he said. “I don’t feel like I’m wrapping things up [in the] narrative. I think there are changes that could happen that would make the show interesting in new ways and new kinds of stories we can tell.”
However, he noted, “I think the creative conversation is not the only conversation when you’re talking about a show in its later years and how long it goes. So some of that is not up to me, and I think we’ll kind of see what happens. But I am also very proud of the show every season and I’m happy with the show we’re making. I think whether it has a long life or a relatively short life, I feel very lucky that I get to make it for as long as I get to make it.”
New (to Comedy Central) episodes of “BoJack Horseman” Season 1 air Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m. ET. The series is also streaming on Netflix.